Post-Christmas Letdown

Jan16

January in Edmonton

Many years ago, I defined the post-Christmas letdown as that prickly feeling of loss when the energy and excitement of the holidays wore off and the numerous Christmas decorations were taken down, leaving a starkness on walls and buildings and a void in the heart. It’s literally withdrawal.

These days, I define it as the day I feel too stupid to play my Christmas music, lest my neighbours overhear through the door.

It used to hit after New Year’s Day, but times are changing.

Over the decades, the day of post-Christmas letdown has crept up from after New Year’s to December 26th.

Throughout my life, Christmas festivities carried into the new year to around January 3rd, when the tree and decorations came down. We could even get away with leaving them up until January 6th if we were holding out for Ukrainian Christmas. But now anything Christmas-y after December 25th feels wrong. Christmas music stops playing on the radio, and younger folks I’ve known remove their decorations immediately after Christmas Day: “Well, Christmas is over.”

The original twelve day of Christmas went from December 25th to January 5th, inclusive

The Twelve Days of Christmas

When I was young, the 24th and 25th were family days. December 26th was a social day, when we opened our home to friends. My mother served a festive meal of roasted duck, red cabbage, and Czech potato dumplings, since turkey was reserved for the 25th. Two families often ate squeezed around a large dining table with fancy plates, crystal glasses, pine bough centre pieces for aroma, and twinkling Christmas lights on the tree.

As children, my siblings and I received our gifts on the magical eve of December 24th according to Czech tradition. The next morning, while my parents slept in to a respectable hour, we had our new gifts and toys to entertain us.

We played endlessly through the next week alongside decorations and a colourful tree, with access to the best food and baking we’d had all year. We had helped to make the special Christmas cookies, but, except for a few broken crumbs, nothing was allowed until noon on December 24th.

My mother’s coffers of home-baked goods were kept under heavy guard in a drawer in my grandfather’s room. When these treasures were finally released, they were available to us throughout the holidays. Or until we ate them. I’m sure my mother had to hide some for company.

Christmas feels different now. The holiday spirit, songs, décor, and celebrating occur up to and including December 25th, then stop abruptly. The celebratory days of Christmas barely arrive before they’re over. Today, Christmas feels done on December 26th, but it didn’t always. It used to be only the beginning, when people finally had the chance to take holiday time and spend the festive days together.

The pre-Christmas days are nothing short of a frenzy, much of it away from family, which make the Christmas to New Year’s week particularly important (even if some of us have to work during several of those days). I don’t shop on Boxing Day. That’s often my first real day of rest after weeks of toil. When the kids were all still at home, I would serve roasted duck.

Here in the northern latitudes, the void left behind by the quick removal of Christmas decorations and holiday music fills easily with cold and darkness. January is the hardest month. Although day length has increased by several minutes at the end of the day since winter solstice, winter sunrise is stubborn, refusing to yield to the light.

Edmonton, Alberta, sunrise/sunset times

  • Dec. 14 — 8:44 to 4:14
  • Dec. 21 — 8:49 to 4:16 (solstice; longest night)
  • Dec. 28, 29, 30 — sunrise steady at 8:51; sunset 4:21, 4:22, 4:23, respectively
  • Dec. 31 — 8:50 to 4:24

(Source: timeanddate.com, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, December 2016.)

By January 1st, we have gained 12 minutes of light at the end of the day, but sunrise is still stuck at a later time than on winter solstice. Only at the end of the month do we finally begin to gain light in the morning.

  • Jan. 1 — 8:50 to 4:26 (a noticeable difference from 4:14)
  • Jan. 31 — 8:20 to 5:15 (a full hour at the end, but only half an hour in the morning)

(Source: timeanddate.com, January 2017.)

This darkness is hard on school kids and working people, particularly in combination with brutal cold. Everything is harder in the cold, making every small task physically draining.

That’s the key factor that makes our city so different from other major cities in the world, places with which we have to compete economically. At the same time, this uniqueness makes our city character building and exotic.

In early January, another one or two severe cold snaps are usually imminent, and spring is far away. At work, there is much to be done as things get into full swing, yet energy is low, having been siphoned off by cold and darkness. There is no long weekend to look forward to for respite.

“For me, extending the buoyant mood created by Christmas music and lights is a big deal. The deeper we cut into January, the sooner we will be through the starkness of it.”

Sunrise doesn’t get decent until February 16, when it hits 7:50 a.m. By this point, we are gaining daylight in Edmonton at a rate of over 4 minutes/day.

  • Feb. 28 — 7:23 to 6:11

(Source: timeanddate.com, February 2017.)

img_2006

Speaker on post. Alberta Legislature Grounds, Dec. 29, 2016

Though some individual folk may take down trees and decorations in their homes as early as Boxing Day–I saw a real tree tossed out onto a porch, awaiting the city’s tree removal truck–I am heartened by the City of Edmonton decorations and lights that are left up until after New Year’s, and by the continued playing of Christmas carols such as Little Drummer Boy over outdoor speakers at the Alberta Legislature Grounds.

ledge20161229-piccollage-2016-12-29-23_46_52

Alberta Legislature Grounds, Edmonton, Dec. 29, 2016. Beautiful at night with lights on.

When do you take down your decorations?

How do you feel when the holiday decorations come down? Do you experience a “hole”?

I would love to hear from you in the comments.

About Eva Blaskovic

I am a multi-genre author of literary fiction, fantasy, and paranormal, and writer of non-fiction articles on parenting, writing, education, health, and travel. My background encompasses both the sciences and the arts. I teach at a specialized clinic for learning disorders and mentor young authors. In addition to writing and teaching, my passions are weather, Indian food, gardening, and music. I have played eight musical instruments and spent many years immersed in taekwondo and karate. In my youth, I was an avid canoeist. I was born in Prague, Czech Republic, grew up in the Great Lakes region of Ontario, Canada, and moved to Alberta in 1988, where I raised four children.
This entry was posted in Life and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to Post-Christmas Letdown

  1. I love snow, but I know excess is trouble some. How do you travel when there’s a thick deposit on roads ?,

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, snow can be very beautiful, but we often deal with it for close to six months. When there is too much on the roads, big city trucks come through and remove it.

      Worse than snow is ice, which can form on roads in a number of ways. With a lot of traffic, snow can get smoothed down and turn ice-like. Sanding trucks come by to sand the roads to make them drivable.

      In very cold temperatures (close to -30C or below), bare roads can develop a slippery layer from ice fog (moisture in the air) or car exhaust. These conditions are very treacherous and deceptive, since roads may look bare but are actually very slippery. If sand is put down, it often doesn’t stick and blows to the side.

      Winter driving is a skill that people have to learn. Larger vehicles are better for deeper snow, highways, and mountains. They are also generally safer than small cars.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. The house feels barren when the decorations come down, it devoids us of the sparkle that is Christmas. Traditionally I wait until 6th January, fear of bad luck for the new year I suppose.
    Happy New year to you – may your writing muse be prolific.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. JJAzar says:

    After the holidays, the wind down is fast and sudden. There’s no easing out of it, really. For me, it’s Christmas, then New Year, then back to normal. But the charm of it all lingers on the cold wind. Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Pingback: A New Year for This Blog | Beyond the Precipice

  5. Pingback: Unlucky Ducky | Beyond the Precipice

  6. notamigrant says:

    no snow here in UK this season, feel cheated…and well beyond the christmas let down – feels like a void at the moment. i keep my favourite lights still on in the living room and some cookies, like ginger bread men, will have a second bake because we haven’t managed to make them during the xmas..so – defenitely not over yet in our house!

    Liked by 1 person

What say you?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s